What Color is That? No Problem…Check out this App!

Paint Brush

 

I was holding a beautiful home open this past Sunday in Brookeville and I was admiring the dining room wall color. I thought to myself – What color is that? I couldn’t find any paint cans laying around and instead of asking the Owners, and risking them not knowing, I figured I would use one of my favorite apps to help me determine: Sherwin Williams Color Snap!

If you are ever in the same predicament or if you ever see a piece of fabric or furniture and would like paint in a similar color – use this app! If you are at a paint store and find a color you like in one brand of paint but you really want to use Sherwin Williams – use this app!

It is so easy to use. Simply load the app.

Color Snap - Sherwin

 

 Select Match a Photo 

 

Color Snap - Sherwin 2

 

Take a picture of the wall, fabric, furniture, color swatch etc. and wait for the results. 

Color Snap - Sherwin 3

It is pretty cool because light always hits colors in a different way, so this actually pulls a number of colors based on the light exposure and it enlarges the color spots so you can really see.

 

You’re welcome 🙂 

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How Do I Use This Gift Card?!- Part One

You may think this post is totally unrelated to real estate, but it’s not. Remember, my blog is also community related and some of you may receive gift cards as, well, gifts!

Over the last few years I’ve received quite a few gift cards – between engagement party, charity auctions, birthdays, bridal shower, and holidays. I absolutely love receiving gift cards. However, I’m a gift card hoarder. I’m on the opposite spectrum of my sister and fiance – they receive a gift card and it is most likely spent that week, maybe even that day. I currently have about 40 gift cards to various places.  I was going through my gift card stash this morning and I have cards received in 2012. Maybe even a few gas cards from 2011.(side note: I even save “club” program cards- I found a Hecht’s Bra and Panty club card! I mean, they’ve been gone for what, 6 or 7 years?!)  Am I crazy? Am I a jerk? Am I selfish? Don’t answer that.

Gift Cards

I would like to say that my behavior can be blamed on the fact that I want my purchase, with said gift cards, to mean something special. I have a Starbucks gift card and I don’t want to just blow it on a Caramel Apple Cider on my way to the office. I want to blow it on a Caramel Apple Cider on a freezing cold day, when my car breaks down near one, and when I just happen to really need to use the bathroom. I want that Macy’s gift card to be used to go towards the purchase of a dress for someone’s wedding or for an outfit for a very special occasion- not on a pair of underwear because the washing machine and dryer have chewed holes in all of them. I mean, does my Aunt really want me to use a birthday gift card she gave me for holey underwear replacement?! Aunt C, if you see this, you can answer the question.

Caramel Apple Cider

Sure…I’ve gone against my better judgment and have used a Visa gift card at Harris Teeter at 3am for the purchase of dixie cups and jello. It was only because I had gotten to the store and realized that I left my debit card in my other coat, after pumping gas earlier that day. Who hasn’t done that?! Fortunately, I had a trusty gift card hidden at the bottom of my purse. Gah. I got what I needed but now I have to tell MS that I used his gift card to buy dixie cups. The worst part of it all: I have an odd balance left on the card.

So this morning I decided that I was going to make a fairly important purchase before a major trip that is approaching. It was a splurge but all justifiable by the fact that I was able to use several gift cards to purchase it. Every time I use this item, I will think of those 8 special people who provided me with these specific gift cards over the last few years.

Box Question Mark

Stay tuned for the next blog post: How Do I Use This Gift Card?! No, Really, How Do I Use It?! – Part Two

 

30 is the new 20

Turning 30

I’ve been a little delayed in posting on the blog because I was busy with work that kept me on the road a lot AND I was also celebrating turning the big 3-0 last week. I actually wasn’t planning on celebrating, really, because it is just another birthday and, frankly, I was tired. Though it doesn’t seem like it based on how the week shaped up…… My birthday week consisted of a pizza and pajama party at my house with family and friends (never too old for good ol’ fashioned fun!), finally meeting the baby of some good friends, dinner at Vinoteca and seeing Lorde  and Lo-Fang concert in D.C. with friends (great show!), trying out the new Highland Inn with friends (food was amazing!), and then capped the week off at B & O Brasserie for dinner before seeing The Book of Mormon in Baltimore (such an amazingly entertaining show!).

Since I’d like to look at 30 as the new 20, I’ve been inspired to make a personal list of  20 things to consider when looking for in a real estate agent (in no particular order!) whether buying or selling:

1. Personable  – You are going to be spending a significant amount of time with your agent and you will want to consider whether you ‘gel’ both professionally and personally. I find that I am naturally pretty personable. It’s just how I am. I think I get it from my Dad. I don’t need to be best friends with my clients, though sometimes I am 🙂 However, I find it important to get with them on a personal level so I know where they are coming from. It helps me to gauge their needs and determine what’s best for them. It is also good for them to know where I am coming from as well. I have shared weddings, anniversaries, deaths, birthdays, friendships, and babies with many of my clients throughout the years.

2. Knowledgeable – They don’t have to have been in the business for 20+ years to have knowledge and they don’t have to know everything…yet. The number of years that one is in the business doesn’t necessarily equate to knowledge. I believe knowledge is gained through experiences and education. You may find that the agent with less years may do more transactions in a year than someone who has had their license for longer. I learn so much from each transaction. If there has ever been a time when I did not know something, I went and found out. Your agent doesn’t have to know everything, but they need to be willing to admit it, and then help you find the answer.

Knowledge

3. Responsive – Does it take days to respond to a voicemail, text, or email? Think about if that is the kind of response time you would like when you found the home of your dreams and you’re waiting to hear back from your agent as to when you can meet to put together an offer. This brings me to another point…never assume that they got the message. If you don’t hear from them via email, please follow up with a call and leave a voicemail message. Between junk folders and phone issues, you never know!

4. Local – They should be familiar with the area in which you are looking to purchase and/or sell a home. This  does not mean they have to actually live in the same neighborhood, city, or even county to serve you well. I cross-county serve all of the time. I am a Maryland native (for 28 years of my life) and I have dined, visited, and driven throughout much of the state. There are some places that I will not service because of distance or because I feel that my lack of knowledge in that area or with the type of property is a disservice to my client. I receive calls from a lot of agents outside of their service area who want me to let them into properties (because they don’t use the same systems we do) with their clients or who want me to show their clients the property because they are “too far away”. This is an example of what you do not want from your Buyer’s agent. If you are on the selling side, make sure that the agent adequately services your area and will market the home in your area. When I receive a referral or inquiry from someone who is looking to buy or sell in an area I don’t service, I am able to refer them to someone who does, and will take care of them.

5. Full Time – Do you need to see a “hot” house that just popped on the market on your lunch break and your agent is still at their day job? I take real estate seriously. It is my career. It is not a hobby. There is more to a real estate than opening the door for someone on the weekend. It is a full time job and there are issues that may pop up in the middle of a transaction that cannot wait until 5:30pm to be handled. Especially when many of the real estate partners (i.e. lenders and title companies) are closed after 5pm. You want your agent to be able to answer your question in the middle of the day and not have to whisper under their desk on their phone because they don’t want their boss to hear.  If you were to interview any of my current and past clients they would say that I definitely do this full time. 

6. Hungry – You want an agent who likes to eat (me!). Oh, and also one that is hungry for business. Doesn’t wait for things to happen but works to make them happen. Also, likes to eat 🙂 They can recommend some great restaurants no matter where you move to!

7. Professional – How they conduct themselves, communicate, and even……dress. I’m always dressed professionally. Even if it is only to show one house or pop open a lock box. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some sweat pants, but would you like your surgeon to roll up in sweat pants?

Sweatpants

8. Dedicated – They will do whatever it takes. 

9. REALTOR® – Are they a REALTOR®? Not every real estate agent is a REALTOR®. A person who is a REALTOR® is a member of a local, state, and national association. I am a member of the Howard County Associaton of REALTORS®, Maryland Association of REALTORS®, and National Association of REALTORS®. As a REALTOR®, I have a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice that I adhere to.

10. Active – Are they active in the business or do they do one transaction every now and then? You want to work with someone who is actively engaged in the business. This business and the market are constantly evolving and changing. There is constantly new legislation being introduced that affects homeowners and real estate transactions. You want to work with someone who is on top of that. There are always new contract addenda that are needed when writing an offer or need to be included in a contract. You want to work with someone who is up to date on that and who knows what needs to be included.

11. Well-Versed – Have they worked with both Buyers and Sellers? I work with Sellers, Buyers, Landlords, and Tenants (never in the same transaction!). I think it has made me well-versed during a transaction. When I am working with a Seller and have listed their home, my experience working with Buyers has helped to anticipate what Buyers will think when they walk into a home or even how they will react when negotiating. This serves the same when I am representing Buyers.

12. Company – Who does #2 work for? (Austin Powers reference) It is important to know which company the real estate agent works for. Do they have a presence in the market? (Especially when Selling your home) Do they have a good reputation? I work for Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc. the largest independently owned real estate company in the U.S. I am also on The Creig Northrop Team, the #1 Real Estate Team in Maryland.

13. Marketing & Tools – Do they have a marketing plan? This is especially important when you are considering selling your home. Make sure they have a vast marketing plan for your home. Do they target both print AND internet marketing? How do they reach the masses? What is it that they do that no one else does? When representing you as a Buyer’s agent, do they have some tech tools that you can use to help in your  home search? That’s always fun.

14. Involved – Are they involved? While many will say that this is not a requirement, I definitely think it is something to consider. Perhaps, an added bonus. An agent who is involved within their REALTOR® associations tends to be more informed with upcoming legislation affecting homeowners and real estate transactions and often hears about it before it comes to fruition. They also have access to various classes, leadership academies, and seminars. I am involved in both my local and state associations. It is a way for me to serve my fellow REALTORS® and homeowners. I also think it is important when a REALTOR® is involved in their community. They’re giving back and serving the community that serves them.  I volunteer with various organizations throughout Howard County and some that cross-county lines.

15. Referral – Someone referred them for a reason. If you have a trusted friend, co-worker, family member, acquaintance, etc. ask them if they have a real estate agent they can refer to you. While they may not have necessarily bought or sold a home, they may know someone who has. A majority of my business are referrals from past clients, friends, family, and acquaintances. I love it!

16. Relationships & Network – Do they get around? Get your head out of the gutter…by that I mean: do they know a lot of people in the business/industry? Do they have a good network of reliable contractors they can refer to you, flooring company, plumbers, lenders, title companies, etc? Also, do they have good working relationships with other agents…because those other agents will be on the other end of your transaction.

Fist Bump

 17. Available – “Sorry I’m not home right now”. Hopefully your agent is available to meet with you and talk with you. Hopefully they’re not on vacation months at a time and hopefully they’re available on some weekends, during the day, and evenings (gee- that’s a lot of hoping!). They shouldn’t be at your beck and call but they should be able to work with your schedule as much as you should work with theirs. Don’t misinterpret this though (whether I actually practice this is one thing!): Real estate agents need down time. Yes, your agent is going to go away, spend time with family, and maybe occasionally eat dinner and every now and then…sleep.

18. Education – Elementary my dear! All agents are required to take continuing education every couple of years – agency, fair housing, ethics, etc. It is always a bonus when your agent has some extra credentials, such as an Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR®) or Short Sale Foreclosure Resource (SFR) specialist, to name a few. I have both of those and graduated from the Maryland Assocation of REALTORS® Leadership Academy in 2012. The other facet to this piece is that it is important that your agent educate you on the market and the home buying and selling process.

Phone

19. Communication – Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? It is important that your agent communicate with you in the way that you like to communicate. There are some topics and discussions that are better suited for email and others via phone. Your agent should communicate with you throughout the entire process. It is also important that they have good communication skills with outside parties, such as lenders, title companies, insurance companies, etc.

20. Honest – Honestly, that’s it. 

– Alicyn

Pit Bulls in Maryland

On average, I am involved in 10-15 rental transactions a year. I have represented the Landlord in some transactions and I have represented the Tenant in others.

I find that Landlords are often torn on whether or not they want to rent to a Tenant who has a pet or pets. Most are worried about the damages that one or several would do to the property. You know, the normal things like: urinate on the carpet, scratch the hardwoods, damage the carpets, chew the trim, etc. Surprisingly, many of these Landlords have pets of their own, who have in fact resided in the property that is going up for rent. It is that they simply don’t trust other peoples’ pets.  For the past year, though, I have been having a different conversation with Landlords in regards to pets. I have been educating them on the risks of renting their homes out to Tenants with pit bull breeds. Not because of the damages they can cause to the property, but because of the risks involved if they bite.

In 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals determined that pit bulls were inherently dangerous. No matter the history of the dog, it was essentially: one bite and you’re out. This then turned a dog bite by a pit bull into a “strict liability” for, not only the dog Owner, but also the Landlord. Even if the Landlord did not know the Tenant had a dog (no dogs included in the Lease) and the dog had bitten someone, the Landlord would be held liable. This was introducing a host of additional issues that began to pop up – involving homeowners insurance coverage, condo management, and Homeowners Associations. 

The Maryland Association of REALTORS (MAR) made addressing this issue a top priority during this legislative session. Bill SB 247 was introduced and MAR made a Call to Action for its association members and Maryland residents to let their Senators know that they supported this compromise. The bill aimed to eliminate a Landlord’s liability on a dog bite and put the liability on the Owner of the dog. In addition, it got rid of specifics on breed and “strict liability”- allowing responsible dog owners to have a defense if their dogs showed a history of good behavior, training, etc.

On Friday February 28th, the Senate passed legislation of SB 247, 45-0. The house has HB73 that is awaiting a vote.

 

– Alicyn 

 

Colorless and Odorless

A few weeks ago one of my listings, that was under contract, came up with a radon level of 21.0 pCi/L. The Seller found it hard to believe because he said they had tested the radon level when they purchased the house. That was several years ago though and it is important to know that radon levels can change over time. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been involved in a transaction where elevated levels of radon have been found. Due to the soil compositions in Maryland, elevated radon levels are not uncommon. You can read more about radon in Maryland here: Maryland Geological Survey – Radon.

WHAT? Radon is a radioactive gas that is colorless and odorless. It comes from the ground and concentrations of it can be found in your home and various other buildings. According to the EPA website (a great resource), the Surgeon General has said it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. The EPA recommends that anything above 4.0 pCi/L be remediated.

FIX? Radon can be remediated with a radon reduction system. These systems, when installed, essentially pull the air (that contains radon gas) out from underneath the house and vents it out of your home. Prices can vary between $750-$1000 for a system here in Maryland. There are cases when it can cost more depending on the complexity of the situation – layout of the home, number of crawl spaces, etc. The systems consist of PVC piping and a fan/motor. The system can often times be placed inside a home without being visually noticed. On the exterior of a home you will typically see the fan and pipe running outside, but again, they will try to place it somewhere that is as least obtrusive as possible. Most companies guarantee their work until the radon level is below a certain “acceptable” level and most will offer a warranty for a certain amount of time, on the system itself.

An example of a radon system on the exterior of a home

An example of a radon system on the exterior of a home

HOW DO I KNOW? The best way to know what your radon levels are is to test for them. If you are purchasing a home, make sure a radon inspection is one of the inspections that you are going to do. Many home inspectors have the equipment to test for radon. If you are currently in a home and are curious what your levels are, you can hire a third party radon inspection company (one that doesn’t do radon remediation) to test for you. They will run the test for 48 hours and can have results to you within 24 hours of picking up the machine. You can also test for radon yourself by picking up a radon kit at a local hardware store – while this route costs less, you usually have to conduct the test for longer and it will also take longer for your results. If the results of your test come back high, according to the EPA standards, contact a radon remediation specialist to consult you on a system. If the levels come back “acceptable”, make sure you continue to test at least every couple of years to monitor the level in your home as it can change over time. Once you have a system installed, they will recommend that you re-test every couple of years to make sure the system is still “doing its job”.

HIGHLIGHTS 

1. TEST FOR RADON AND MONITOR OVER TIME, AS LEVELS CAN CHANGE 

2. ELEVATED RADON LEVELS CAN BE ADDRESSED 

– Alicyn